The word “hostel” evokes different feelings in different folks … and they aren’t always pleasant. For some, the word is most associated with the repugnant (but somewhat brilliantly so) Eli Roth films. Most commonly, hostels are thought of as no-frills (sometimes repugnantly so) international crash pads for nomadic college kids. I bunked in a few European hostels in my early 20s and emerged with more than a couple of horror stories to tell involving cockroaches, mysterious odors, and bunkmates with an aversion to modern plumbing. Still, I’m thankful those experiences didn’t turn into an Eli Roth Film.
In the U.K., however, hostels are less associated with horror films and budget tourism and more akin to traditional lodging houses that provide longish-term shelter to various types of people. Enter one of the U.K.’s older hostels of this type, Shaftesbury House, in the industrial city of Leeds.
Built in 1939, Shaftesbury House was apparently a bit of a game-changer as it “used methods of construction and modern housing concepts considered revolutionary at the time, which improved the standards of living for thousands of people [seasonal workers] during its time as a hostel.”
It’s only fitting then that after closing up shop as a hostel in 1998 and subsequently falling into disrepair, Shaftesbury House’s reincarnation is also game changing: the building is now known as Greenhouse, a residential housing complex that aims to significantly reduce the environmental impact of its residents as "the U.K.'s most pioneering low-carbon development."
Developed by citu, the old Shaftesbury House went through a partial remodel to become Greenhouse, keeping much of the art deco building’s architectural integrity in-tact while making way for 172 tricked-out rental apartment and condo units (as well as office spaces) that are powered by renewable energy. After three years of design and development, Greenhouse officially opened last month.
Says the Greenhouse website:
Greenhouse apartments are distinctly designed inside and out; design has not been forsaken for functionality. Part refurbishment of a classic 1940’s building, the design ethos embraces the history of the building with exposed concrete, timber and brickwork combined with contemporary statement colours, fabrics and retro-chic furniture all looking out over the diverse cityscape of Leeds city centre.
- Heating and cooling via ground source heat pumps
- Innovative energy-monitoring systems in each unit
- Dual-flush toilets, low-flow water fixtures, and grey water recycling
- 100 percent British wool carpeting with 100 percent recycled underlay
- Energy-efficient appliances and light fixtures
- Comprehensive, building-wide recycling program
- Efficient sound and heat insulation
- Solar hot water panels
Head on over to Greenhouse’s official website to learn more about this remarkable British eco-refurbishment project. Are there any old, run-down buildings in your neck of the woods that have been reborn as eco-friendly apartment complexes? I used to live in a refurbished historic building myself — a former armory in Brooklyn turned into an apartment building — but can't say it was as green as Greenhouse.